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A Quick Guide to Cannabinoids: CBD

  • by Charles McElroy

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is one of the most common of the approximately 144 phytocannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant. This non-psychoactive cannabinoid has exploded in popularity throughout both the wellness and cannabis spaces in recent years, becoming widely utilized to treat numerous health ailments.

But is all this attention on CBD merited?

Is it possible for a cannabinoid like CBD to actually treat serious medical conditions?

And how long have researchers and scientists known about CBD?

Read on for our answers to these questions and insight on other CBD-related topics.

A Quick History of CBD

Cannabis has an extensive history of medicinal use across different cultures and time periods. Many pinpoint the exact beginnings of cannabis’ therapeutic use to Emperor Shen Neng of China in 2737 BCE. However, the use of specific cannabinoids for medicinal reasons is a relatively modern phenomenon.

One exception to the rule might be Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, who reigned from 1837 to 1901. Some sources attest that she used CBD-rich varieties of cannabis to treat menstrual cramps.

CBD itself was first isolated and synthesized in 1940 by Roger Adams, an American chemist affiliated with the University of Illinois. Adams’ enthusiasm for his discovery was not met with support from all corners. Harry Anslinger, the United States’ first drug czar, admonished Adams for his outspoken defense of the pleasant effects of cannabis. Adams’ boldness and brilliance were a family tradition; he was a direct descendant of John Adams, America’s second president and an ardent proponent of hemp.

The next major advance in the science behind CBD came from Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the Israeli chemist who first identified CBD’s stereochemistry. Mechoulam’s advance led to a breakthrough in understanding the specific effects of individual cannabinoids, including CBD.

These scientific advances paved the way for our current use of CBD. U.S. sales of CBD reached $1.198 billion in 2020, and CBD sales are projected to reach $1.918 billion in 2022. This expansive market for CBD is in large part due to hemp-derived CBD’s federal legalization under the 2018 Farm Bill. Even with the surge in attention to alternative cannabinoids like Delta-8-THC, CBD is expected to remain a popular choice for patients looking to support their wellness regimens.

CBD Visualized - Poster by Goldleaf

The Science and Medicinal Effects of CBD

In growing plants, CBD exists as CBDA, or cannabidiolic acid. CBD itself isn’t formed until the cultivar is cut, dried, and heated, or the extract is heated.

Different cultivars have different naturally occurring quantities of CBD. The typical concentration of CBD in most cultivars tends to be between one to four percent.

In response to rising demand, CBD-rich cultivars (i.e. those over four percent CBD) are becoming more common. Some high-CBD cultivars many enjoy are Harlequin and Cannatonic.

CBD has been documented to have positive effects on a wide range of medical conditions. These include, but are not limited to:

Although many choose to use CBD on its own, cannabidiol can have an “entourage effect” (i.e. an increase in potency) when paired with other beneficial molecules. CBDA, for example, increases CBD’s bioavailability. And THC and CBD compound each other’s therapeutic effects.

Unfortunately, according to the FDA, use of CBD may have side effects. These include:
  • Drowsiness
  • Gastrointestinal Distress
  • Irritability 
  • Male Reproductive Toxicity
  • Potential Contraindications With Other Medications
  • Potential Liver Injury

As with any change to your wellness regimen, we strongly advise you to discuss CBD with your doctor beforehand. We also recommend you document your experiences with a CBD Jotter or Patient Journal.


CBD has become a go-to treatment, providing relief from a multitude of symptoms for many individuals. We expect that CBD, like other cannabinoids, will expand on its current popularity as old myths about cannabis are debunked. We welcome this sea change with open arms.

If you’d like to learn more about CBD, consider reading our article on CBD’s use for depression and anxiety.

Tagged with: Cannabis Education Wellness

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